One of Stephanie Vandem's works
One of Stephanie Vandem's works

Stéphanie can no longer mask her artistic skills

Having begun her artistic career designing costumes, masks and puppets, Aberdeenshire-based Brazilian artist Stéphanie Vandem later turned her attention to painting and drawing.

She discovered a love for the chiaroscuro of Caravaggio and the large compositions and drama of the Renaissance painters while studying in Florence.

The struggle of humanity, portrayed in the twisted figures of the Sistine Chapel frescos is a theme that permeates her Lifting series, first exhibited in Aberdeen in January 2017.

Utilising oil in the muted colours of the Aberdeenshire landscape, the series portrays the ‘strong sense of struggle, personal endurance, showmanship and cultural identity’ of the Scottish Highland Games. However, Stéphanie is keen that her work also reflects the zeitgeist – the refugee crisis, Brexit, poverty and mass shootings – to make it accessible to everyone.

‘Every day there is tragedy and it’s hard not to internalise all of that. Lifting almost encapsulates it through something as benign as a game. I have to have a story or I don’t see the point in the image but at the same time I want anyone to be able to access it.’

Family Album is another body of work that brings the personal into the public sphere. A collection of 11 faceless portraits, the series shifts the focus from the individual to the universal relationships between people – in particular between caregivers and dependents.

‘My work is about connecting on a broader level,’ says Stéphanie. ‘The face is what holds it together – the thing people look at to tell what a person is thinking or feeling. If you take that away, what will people look at? There’s a desire to create an image that can be accessed by everyone – it’s not just about my children, it’s about the relationship.’

Stéphanie is embarking on a new project that she describes as ‘problematic’, looking at the subject of religion, and Christianity in particular. The work will explore how the iconic images of saints and stories from the bible reverberate in today’s society.

One of Stéphanie Vandem’s works

‘Those images can be positioned in our daily lives, so how do we react to them? I like to produce work that’s not judgemental but that’s open enough to let people question themselves.’

Looking to the future, Stéphanie has aspirations to collaborate with artists from the continent, particularly those from Germany. She also hopes her Lifting series can travel further.

‘I’d love to go to Glasgow and access those audiences of a more urban streak, and equally, I’d love to take the work up to Inverness,’ she comments.

‘Surviving is high on my agenda and being able to sustain my practice is a daily ambition. It’s about having something interesting to develop, which speaks to other people.’

Stephanie’s work is currently on display at Aberdeenshire Council’s headquarters. Click HERE for details.